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Driven: BMW 420i Cabriolet

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After 13 years of using a retracting metal top, the mid-sized BMW has gone back to using a traditional cloth top, like the iconic E30 and E36 rag tops.

The 4 Series has been very divisive since it was revealed in 2020. Most of this is down to the controversial radiator grille, which many feel spoils the otherwise elegant design purity.

It was a mixed bag in the AutoAdvisor office - some thought the grille works, while others wished BMW had stuck to something a touch more traditional. Viewed from the front, it’s still a polarising car. But what about the rest? Well, from the side and the rear, it’s a particularly handsome vehicle. The cloth roof - which is easier to store - allows for a sleeker rear and roofline.

Still, this is a BMW - what’s it like to drive? Well, being the ‘20i’ derivative, you could be forgiven for thinking that this hasn’t got much to offer in the performance stakes. While the 2.0-litre turbopetrol produces adequate power (135 kW/300 Nm), it’s more suited to boulevard cruising. It’s not slow, with 0-100 km/h coming up in 8.2 seconds, but the laid-back character of the 420i means it feels more at home cruising the coast with the top down - something we couldn’t do in Gauteng, sadly. BMW claims that the 420i cabriolet can manage a remarkably frugal fuel average of just 6.6 L/100 km. In the real world, it’s difficult to match these figures, but we managed to come very close, with a 6.9 L/100 km average over our time with the car.

Like the 3 Series sedan, the two-door sibling strikes a fine balance between handling and ride comfort. The 420i can entertain a driver through the corners, the quick and direct steering working well with the taut chassis. But it flattens bumps and potholes with ease, only the sharpest ridges spoiling the ride. With all convertibles, you lose a bit of practicality in return for some style and glamour. The rear seats, while not big, will fit a pair of adults at a squeeze, but we’d advise you use them for extra luggage or kids.

Shared with the hard-top and 3 Series is the classy interior. It may come across as austere, but when seated in the cabin, you can appreciate the high-quality feel that is present in every surface. The infotainment system, while intuitive and easy-to-use, is still lagging behind the competition (particularly Mercedes-Benz) in terms of configurability. 

Verdict

BMW has a fine history of producing classy, capable cabriolets that offer decent bang for your buck. Yes, the ‘20i’ may not be the most desirable derivative, but it fulfills the brief very well. It’s quick enough, economical and refined - all the things you need in a comfortable cruiser that moonlights as a commuter during the week.


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